Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
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Tribes were paid
Allen Foreman, in a commentary in the Feb. 9 Herald and News stated as fact that tribal members were not paid a fair price by anyone's standards, then or now for Klamath Indian Forest lands disposed of as the result of the termination process.
Consider the documented fact that following a vote by 77.78 percent of tribal members to receive their share of tribal assets in cash, 11 tracts were offered for sale under rather onerous conditions. Only one unit received a satisfactory bid and was sold. The balance was transferred to the secretary of agriculture and formed the basis for the Winema National Forest.
These transactions were based on a valuations of $70 million available for distribution to withdrawing tribal members. This was successfully and justifiably challenged and an amount was awarded based on a valuation of $106 million.
Part of the Klamath Indian Forest set aside for the 22.22 percent of tribal members who did not elect to receive cash in 1958 was placed in trust with U.S. National Bank. At the conclusion of that trust, Klamath Indian forest lands were legislatively condemned by the federal government. The government deposited $49 million with the bank as payment for the lands taken. This was not considered a fair price, and was challenged by the bank and the tribe.
As a result, an additional $54 million was deposited plus $27.5 million in interest for delay in payment. These amounts were available for distribution to beneficiaries of the trust.
Payments made on behalf of tribal members for The Klamath Indian Forest totaled $209 million, as determined by court proceedings or settled as the result of the threat of court action. Converted to 2002 dollars to account for inflation, this figure becomes $1.03 billion.
Editor's note: Robert Mezger was U.S. Bank forest manager when the bank held parts of the former reservation in trust.
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